Topic 38

Topic:Learning about the past has no value for those of us living in the present. Do you agree or
disagree? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

I disagree wholeheartedly that learning about the past has no value for those of us living in the
present. In fact, the definition of learning includes the idea of an accumulation of experiences
from the past. Learning can only take place if we make an association between things that have
happened in the past or between something in the past and something that we predict will happen
in the future. All knowledge that we acquire as we grow is from the past-language, customs,
academic subjects, and so on. While it may be helpful sometimes to be able to overlook previous
knowledge in order to avoid the constraint conformity, the vast majority of knowledge that we
learn is a huge boost-imagine if each of us had to discover by ourselves that 2 + 2 = 4! So, in a
very real sense, all learning depends on past events.

We are only able to live in this world with our current standard of living because we have learned
from the past. We receive knowledge from the past and we are able to use it and improve it. We
examine our actions in the past and we make judgments about what was right and what was
wrong. Then, it is hoped, we will attempt to avoid those same mistakes again. For example, one of
the great mistakes all over the world has been depriving women and the disempowered classes
status in society and many industrialized and developing countries all over the world are
attempting to avoid such mistakes both in the present and in the future.

Furthermore, all of the knowledge that we have today is a result of all the work of our
predecessors. The ancient Greeks developed geometry, which helped other European scientists
analyze the solar system, which in turn gave us a new understanding of our place in the universe.
The great majority of technology today depends directly on several thousands of years of work of
past thinkers. To ignore the knowledge of the past would be to throw away five thousand years of
history and experience.

There is, however, some seemingly small, but important value to ignoring the past. It is often the
case that history or tradition has the effect of constraining our thought in the present and many
important philosophical and scientific breakthroughs have only been possible as a direct result of
ignoring the past. The past, in a sense, can blind us to the truth, we can become bound by
 tradition. For example, at one time, leading thinkers in Europe thought that the Earth was at the
center of the universe and those who disagreed were persecuted as heretics, even Copernicus,
who we now know was correct about his heliocentric model of the Solar System. However,
scientists were eventually able to break from the past and accept the new model of the universe.

In short, learning from and analyzing the past has enormous value for us and life as we know it on
Earth today would not be possible without the benefit of thousands of years of history and
accumulated knowledge. It is important, however, to ignore the past so that we can make a step
forward, and such free thinking should be encouraged, although not at the expense of past
knowledge. Learning from the past is something like learning from our parents-in most cases, their
past helps us have a better future, but there are times when we need to make a break from the
past and make a bold step into an unknown future.


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